From the late eighties to the mid-nineties, I worked the graveyard shift proofreading and word processing in corporate law firms in New York. At one of the firms, I worked with a man named Silvio. He was a native New Yorker, second generation Italian-American, and a bit of a bitchy queen in the old style -- half Sylvester Stallone, half Estelle Getty in Golden Girls. He was sarcastic, very very funny, a great cook, and good to the marrow.
When I met him, his partner (he would have called him his "lover") of many years had just died of AIDS, and we worked together for only a year or so, so I never knew him except as someone who was tender with grief. Most of the time it didn't show, but every once in a while, I'd look over and he'd be staring at the air in front of his face, his eyes wet, utterly lost. Even after you've been working the graveyard shift for years, and your dinner is breakfast, the long night still has the quality of a vigil. In those cramped and smoky -- this was before New York outlawed smoking and before I quit -- proofreading rooms, we might reveal things, laugh harder than our daytime laugh, feel close for a few hours like drunk people and slightly embarrassed when the sun came up.
I had just discovered Auntie Mame -- who turned us on to it? J might remember -- but Silvio knew it by heart. We would recite whole scenes together; well, he would recite them, and I would try to keep up, laughing till my throat hurt. His favorite was the scene when Mame meets Patrick's debutante girlfriend, Glory, who tells the story about the ill-fated ping pong game. It's hilarious. He also loved to do the southern matriarch ("My bougainvilleas!"), who appears in this clip. Silvio did all the voices to a tee, especially, of course, the great Rosalind Russell.